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PPAI Expo logo over Las Vegas skyline
Top 5 promo trends from the PPAI Show
February 18, 2020

One of our team’s favorite ways to kick off the new year is at the PPAI show in Las Vegas. PPAI (Promotional Products Association International) is a trade association for manufacturers and distributors of promotional products. Their annual Expo is held in January and is touted as the industry’s largest trade show, featuring more than 1,300 exhibitors showing off the latest promo trends.

Our customers often ask us for new, unique, and trendy ideas for their marketing projects. Visiting this show is a great way to find the latest and greatest in the world of promotional products. We caught up with three of our team members who headed west last month to find out what’s hot for 2020.

The Team


Jason Hoffman – Sales Account Executive

As the most senior member of team Tactive – besides co-founders Kurt & Tim – Jason’s extensive experience on the print side of the business gives him a unique set of eyes at industry events. He keyed in on promo trends that are different, interesting, or novel enough to make a brand stand out.


Katie Harrington – Client Success Manager

Katie is a bonafide promo industry expert. She can source almost any item on earth and has done so for a large majority of Tactive’ clients. Since she has a good sense of the types of items that are already popular with our customers, Katie was especially excited about vendors who had new approaches or techniques to offer.


Michael McMillen –  Project Manager

Michael manages complicated projects that involve many moving parts, so finding vendors that simplify a piece of the puzzle was one of his goals while attending the show. He was glad to see so many suppliers adopting eco-friendly practices and materials, which are a big focus for his customers, too.


The Promo Trends

Eco is IN

The most immediately obvious promo trend at the 2020 PPAI Expo? Eco-friendly everything.  From the products themselves to packaging, to production and distribution – promo suppliers are delivering on consumer demands to consider the environment when it comes to swag.

“Everyone seems to have a message or is giving back in some way,” said Michael. “And while there were some old-standbys – like reusable straws – it seemed like companies were finding new ways to make being eco-friendly more convenient.”

While this trend has been around for a while, it was mostly isolated to larger metropolitan areas or the coasts, where environmental impact is often felt more strongly. But eco has made it mainstream. And suppliers are making it easier – and more affordable – for marketers to promote their brand while also being eco-friendly.

Our favorites:

(P.S. Our blog post about incorporating eco into your print + promo strategy is a great resource for additional tips!)

Custom Packaging

Subscription-based delivery companies popularized a promo trend that corporate brands are beginning to embrace. The experience of opening a package is just as important – if not more important – than the item the package contains.

“More and more vendors seem to be offering custom packaging,” says Jason. “Even some of the vendors that we’ve used for things unrelated to packaging are now offering customizable shipping boxes that can be turned in just a few days.”

While the materials themselves haven’t changed much, production capabilities have improved. This allows for smaller runs, faster delivery times, and more ways to customize a box to fit your brand. Whether it’s delivered by hand or shipped across the country, the verdict is in: packaging matters.

Our favorites:


Technology promo items have been popular ever since the smartphone virtually replaced the desktop computer as the go-to communication tool of choice. Our devices go everywhere with us, and promotional companies have made it easy for your brand to follow suit.

“The tech-related products themselves are not so revolutionary,” says Jason, “but the way the products are presented seems to be a way to make technology products more interesting.”

Mobile device gear continues to dominate – think branded power banks, mobile device stands, and accessories for your… accessories. But even analog products like stickers have found new life on the prime real estate of laptop lids. Popular retail companies, like Otterbox, are also getting in on the game. This gives smaller organizations an opportunity to put their logos next to a major brand name.

Our favorites:


The growing influence of the fashion industry on promotional apparel was visible at this year’s PPAI show. The popularity of retail trends like outdoor activewear and athleisure were on display, proving that getting your brand outdoors is definitely in.

Apparel seems to be inspired by the eco-movement as well, with softer, rustic fabrics and printing techniques taking center stage. “I get a lot of requests for heathered or natural colored fabrics,” said Katie. “And many of my clients request soft-ink printing instead of the more traditional inks that tend to be stiffer.”

High-end retailers are even in on the game. Major brands like Eddie Bauer, The North Face, and Columbia are offering product lines specifically made for the industry. For example, garments may include extra embroidery pockets and other decoration areas for you to add your brand.


Speaking of apparel, “I think I came home with a dozen pairs of socks,” said Jason. “It’s a huge trend in fashion, I know for men, so it makes sense that companies would see this as a cool, new way to promote a business.”

Socks are definitely a hot promo trend, particularly with brands that want to showcase their personality. They are a great alternative to “boring” corporate apparel. Socks also allow employees to rep a logo in a more subtle way. And if you’re looking to create a buzz at your event booth – socks are definitely the way to go.

With a variety of fabric and imprinting options, adding a logo, mascot, or tagline to socks is unquestionably on-trend.

Our favorites:

Bonus Trend: Edible Gifts

Anything edible continues to be popular, with snack mixes, chocolates, and popcorn dominating the food-gift trend. But we couldn’t end this list without including a stand-out new item to the game: the Dirty Cookie® Cookie Shot. We tried it with a shot of Bailey’s… Vegas, Baby!

Want to get your brand in on the latest promo trends? Say, “Hi!” Our team is ready to help your brand take off in 2020.